Sometimes the litigants aren’t the only antagonists.
Recently I was asked to mediate in a matter that was already in its 4th year. There had been 3 prior mediations. There was a huge amount of anger and there were accusations of fraud, deceit, misrepresentation and thievery. The litigants had already forked out in excess of $200,000 and thought they were likely to spend at least another $250-350,000 when the case went to trial.
The lawyers don’t get along. I have arranged a mediation session about a month before the trial. The parties and their lawyers arrive at the mediation and they are all obviously angry. One client is cursing and the other is retaliating. I start speaking with all parties. I have to manage the lawyers from the start by setting clear boundaries and ground rules for them to follow. There needs to be a clear way to work towards a resolution.
Then we begin the mediation and the parties agree to speak about their overall mutual goal of resolution of the matter. We set the ground rules and I persuade the parties to express their issues in a more neutral manner.
This gives everyone the opportunity to begin to explore and discuss why there were issues in the first place. I manage to persuade all parties to listen to each other. It starts off in short bursts. We have to take numerous private sessions to diffuse the tension, calm the parties and calm the lawyers.
This process takes over 8 hours. I am exhausted.
Finally, they reach full agreement and are satisfied to draft and subsequently sign it off then and there.
Between them they saved around $300,000 and 3-4 weeks of a lengthy, costly and emotional trial.
I am proud of the fact that I helped these people resolve their issues so that they could move on with their lives.